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Long odds for new law grads

Fewer than half of Maryland’s law school graduates in 2011 got full-time, permanent jobs that required bar admission, according to new data from the American Bar Association.

About 47 percent of last year’s graduates of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and 48 percent of those at the University of Baltimore School of Law found such jobs, according to ABA figures that were released Monday. The numbers are below the national average of 55 percent.

Both law schools, however, said that these numbers do not show the full picture. At UM Carey, total employment numbers are almost the same compared to 2010 — about 93 percent. At UB Law, total employment only fell from 91 percent among 2010 graduates to 90 percent for 2011 grads. Nationwide, only 83 percent found employment.

“The job market everywhere has tanked and the numbers are low everywhere,” said Jill Green, assistant dean for law career development at UB Law. “So, to see a couple of percentage points decrease, we are holding pretty strong.”

Teresa K. LaMaster, associate dean for planning and external affairs at UM Carey, said the number of full-time long-term jobs requiring bar passage do not reflect the many students who find jobs in government policy positions or as analysts at nonprofits that don’t require them to pass the bar exam.

“That’s something that’s been really misunderstood in the press,” LaMaster said. “A lot of jobs people would think of as real law jobs, do not require you to pass the bar.”

In fact, the two schools did better than the national average at landing positions in which a law degree, or J.D., is an advantage. While the national average was about 12 percent, UM Carey’s number was 19.5 percent and UB Law hit 27 percent.

“This really tells a different story,” Green said. “I think a lot of people want to paint this picture and people are misleading law students and potential law students about the job market,” Green said. “It’s not being honest about where the jobs are.”

This week’s data marks a series of firsts for the ABA.

Responding to criticism that its earlier reports did not show the type of jobs graduates held, the ABA added the categories to show whether bar passage was required, a law degree would be an advantage, and whether the positions was full time or part time.

Also, a category was added to show whether the university or law school was hiring its own graduates. At UM Carey, for example, that category included 30 graduates in part-time, short-term positions — roughly 10 percent of the graduating class of 297 — as well as two students in full-time, short-term positions.

LaMaster said most of those 32 jobs are part of the law school’s post-graduate fellowship program.

Only four students, out of a graduating class of 298, took university-funded positions at UB Law.

“I think it’s great the ABA is breaking it out so people can get a sense of what the jobs are and what they can expect,” Green said. “The transparency piece is important.”

In another first, the numbers were released a year earlier than in the past, thanks to a change in the way they were collected. While employment data had been bundled into an annual questionnaire with other information that law schools fill out between August and October, this year the ABA collected employment data separately between February and March.

Only about 1.9 percent of 2011 law school graduates nationwide are working in non-professional positions.

No UM Carey 2011 graduates went to non-professional positions, but 13.5 percent took professional jobs where it doesn’t make a difference if you have a J.D. Only about 2 percent went to non-professional jobs from University of Baltimore School of Law, and 9.4 percent have professional jobs where a J.D. is not important.

“The most important thing is that we do whatever we can to help students find the kind of employment situation they want,” LaMaster said. “It might be that students come to law school and realize at the end of it that they don’t want to practice law. We want to help students find some sort of professional position.”

The highest number of employed UM Carey graduates (61), went to federal, state and local judicial clerkships, but large numbers also went to government positions (44), and firms with between two and 10 attorneys (39).

Of the UB Law graduates who found employment, most (61) went to law firms with two to 10 attorneys. Nearly as many (54) went to judicial clerkships, followed by business and industry (47) and government (44).

At both schools, most took jobs in Maryland, followed by Washington, D.C., then Virginia.

“It’s a tough economy,” LaMaster said. “We are really proud of what our students have been able to accomplish in this tough economy and we have done everything we can to support them. In that sense, we are proud of the numbers and we are proud of our students.”

To see the ABA Employment Summaries for the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law click here.

To see the ABA Employment Summaries for the University of Baltimore School of Law, click here.